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Sunderland AFC v Hull City - Pre-Season Friendly

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What did pre-season tell us about how we’ll shape up this season?

Pre-season is difficult to judge anything on, but did it provide any clues as to how Lee Johnson will set us up in the upcoming League One campaign?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


Jack Howe-Gingall says...

One thing that was nice to see was the clear cohesion and ambition on show.

We pressed well and high, and had obvious intentions to play a quick passing game, which Hull often struggled to deal with.

It was encouraging to see plenty of players taking responsibility and trying to get us on the front foot. This was typified by Elliot Embleton who often went for a crucial pass, as opposed to a safe one, and rarely gave the ball away.

Embleton, for me, really staked a claim for a starting place. He glided around the pitch effortlessly, and his assist for Stewart’s opener was a joy to behold. It would be welcome addition to have someone other than McGeady who can pull the strings, and I’m hoping that Embleton receiving the number 8 is an indication that he is backed.

Ross Stewart getting a goal was a great lift. The lad clearly has a lot of tools at his disposal: aerial presence; strong; steady passer; and great movement. The goal adds shine to his solid preseason showings, and I’m convinced with him leading the line we will look strong in attack.

Finally, my adulation for Callum Doyle continues. The lad looks the part and it’s hard to believe he is only 17-years-old. I’d love us to go out and get a strong partner for him, but he is impressing each game with his defensive acumen and ability with the ball at his feet.

Overall, I’m encouraged by the faith in youth and the style in which we seem to intend on playing. My only gripe is to get some proper full backs in - that will allow us to put Neil and Winchester to far better use and hopefully contribute to a good season.

Harrogate v Sunderland - Pre-Season Friendly
Elliot Embleton scores the first goal during a pre-season friendly at Harrogate Town
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sam Blakey says...

One of the main positives I’ve taken from this pre-season is that we seem to have some sort of identity.

The way in which we press the opposition from the front is exciting and as we saw against Hull, it will create opportunities for us. A lot of League One standard defenders will struggle against high-intensity pressing and will either panic or give the ball away.

It’s nice to watch a match and have an understanding of what the message is from the manager to the players, it shows an understanding as well as a togetherness in the camp.

Another positive I took from the Hull match is Luke O’Nien’s energy in the midfield, I thought he was excellent at winning the ball back for us. It links in again with my earlier point about the team press we are seeing, it shows there is a plan with Luke winning the ball back and then quickly looking to break the lines with a pass into Embleton’s feet who then looks for the killer pass into the striker.

I’m not getting too carried away as I know it’s only a pre-season game, however, I also think we should be allowed to be excited from what we saw against Hull, and in particular the Ross Stewart goal. I look forward to hopefully seeing more of the same starting from next week!

Sunderland AFC v Hull City - Pre-Season Friendly
Ross Stewart scores the opening goal during a pre-season friendly against Hull City
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Chris Wynn says...

It’s difficult to tell in pre-season but the biggest change seems to be that we now seem to be using more of the team to attack. Last season, it was slow in the middle of the park and the ball immediately went out wide, during our series of friendlies we appeared to look centrally and play it between the lines.

We look to be making more of the space behind Ross Stewart which is being created by his movement. We are stretching the play when Stewart makes runs towards the opposition’s goal rather than dropping off for the ball so we have been getting joy out of finding the likes of Embleton in the pockets where he can turn and start creating something for others, or as he showed against Harrogate a shooting opportunity for himself.

O’Nien is also the midfielder we were lacking last season when we struggled to get a foothold and a lack of pace and energy in the middle of the park let us down. It’s only pre-season and we’ve got to convert the positives into performances when the pressure is on, beginning against Wigan.

We still need reinforcements at the back and support for the first XI as it still looks pretty weak if you take one or two names out which is inevitable when injuries and suspensions start to hit the squad.

Sunderland AFC v Hull City - Pre-Season Friendly
Will Grigg scoring the winner against Hull City
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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